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The Mother of all Collapses…

A brave decision by Proteas skipper, Smith, paid out more than they bargained for. The play on words “paid out” is deliberate as I think it was a gamble on a pitch which is known to be flat and always produces runs. It may have been calculated as the thought to rather bowl in an expected rain interrupted day and to make use of the little moisture in the wicket. Calculated gamble or not, the return however has been grand and the Proteas are handsomely placed to pile on the pressure.

Dale Steyn
Dale Steyn

The demise of the Black caps is a difficult one to explain and I think they might be asking “how the hell did that happen…” Being 133 for two one moment and then 133 for seven the next, is the mother of collapses! Steyn made the initial breakthrough and Philander wrapped it up from the other end.

I imagine the Proteas would only want to bat once and establish a lead of about 350 before they release the bowling aces – Steyn & co to claim the win.

Some “smart stats” obtained from Cricinfo:
• From a position of 133 for 2, New Zealand lost five wickets on the same score. The aggregate of zero runs for wickets three through to seven is the joint-lowest in Tests. New Zealand, surprisingly, have the four lowest partnership aggregates in an innings for wickets three to seven.
• Vernon Philander picked up his sixth haul of four wickets or more in just 11th innings. In the same period (since November 9, 2011), four players, including Dale Steyn, are joint-second on the list of bowlers with the most four-wicket hauls (4).
• This is the 11th occasion that three or more New Zealand batsmen have scored ducks in an innings against South Africa.
• Graeme Smith’s poor run against Chris Martin continued when he fell to the New Zealand fast bowler for the eighth time. No other bowler has dismissed Smith as many times.
• There have been only two previous occasions (batting first) when New Zealand have won scoring lower than the 185 they made in their first innings. Their most recent such victory came in the Hobart Test against Australia.
• Steyn, who has 41 wickets in seven Tests against New Zealand, is third on the list of South Africa bowlers with the most wickets against New Zealand behind Makhaya Ntini (46) and Shaun Pollock (43). However, Steyn’s average of 18.36 is the best among the top three bowlers.

Lies, Stats and Dour Facts – by Paul

Sport24 features a weekly column by JJ (Blou Bal) Harmse in which he reports on stats from the previous weekend’s Super 15 matches. Are we really interested in who won despite being at a disadvantage in terms of possession or field position? Only if one’s own team is involved, methinks.

While most of it is interesting, at best, there are certain aspects which tend to make me doubt my own judgment concerning the attraction of rugby.

If the ball is in play for 35 minutes, or 44% of the game, it means that for the rest, we are watching 30 grown men, and one other sometimes not so grown up, smelling each others armpits in the line-out, or some other less gentle orifices while getting set to go through that intricate operation known as The Scrum. I use capitals on purpose, as this aspect of the game is receiving attention far beyond what is its rightful due.

Included in the “ball in play” time are the endless rucks, mauls and rolmaal bewegings, not to mention the high kick and charge tactics invented shortly after Paul Roos took his team to England, banished during the reign of King Craven, and perfected after his death.

Like the financial services industry, rugby is slowly but surely being strangled to death by over regulation. The players and public blame the referees, the referees blame the players and coaches, while the core of the problem remains the never-ending string of additions to an already over complex set of rules. Watching Springbok Sage the other night, I could not believe how quickly the scrums formed. The whole formality was finished before today’s referee could get to “Touch”.

We would love to hear your views as well.

Some other news in rugby….
Stormers vs Blues

Jean de Villiers
Jean de Villiers

The answer as to whether the Bulls played badly, or whether the Blues, bottom of the log in New Zealand, is a force to be reckoned with, will be answered this coming weekend when they take on the men from the Cape. I am particularly keen to watch the performance of young Gareth Anscombe, flanked by Piri Weepu and Ma’a Nonu on either side. The latter is a difficult customer himself, and his battle against Jean de Villiers could be a fascinating one. The performance of the Stormers pack will once again be tested, and if they pass this one, I reckon people, including me, will have to reconsider their doubts about them.

Sharks vs Reds
After a shaky start, the Banana Boys regained their winning way last weekend, albeit far from convincing, according to their coach. The Reds, too, were not that convincing so far this season. The difference between the sides, though, is that the Reds have won all three their games, and the Sharks only one out of three. The long injury list of the home team is to a degree countered by the fact that they are playing in the Shark tank, never an easy place for visitors. There are some highly talented players in the Aussie team, including Will Genia, who will have to protect newcomer Ben Lucas in the number 10 jersey. The Reds front row, which includes the man with the unfortunate name of Slipper, will be an obvious target for the the Sharks; the one place where they can neutralise the dangerous backs.

Rebels vs Cheetahs
This must be one game Naka Drotské would have pencilled in as a win before they left the country. With the experienced Andries Strauss back at centre, the backline should show a marked improvement on Sunday. Hopefully, the problems at scrum time were addressed – two near losses out of three are two too many for a team who is gaining a reputation for this.

The Bulls and Lions have a bye this weekend.

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